The Living Seychelles

We had to be up at 07:15 hours this morning as we were due to go on tour at half past eight.  We enjoyed a good breakfast then gathered together suntan cream, mozzie repellent, hand gel and local currency ready to disembark the ship for today’s tour, which was called “The Living Seychelles”, hence the title of today’s blog entry.  😊

After getting the liberty boat across the bay once again, we boarded the small local bus and it was only a short journey of about 20 minutes, through dense, lush vegetation and small houses and shops, until we arrived at the Praslin Museum.  It was a bit of a misnomer, however, because it turned out to be a living museum rather than a building full of dusty old relics, and our guide (and the museum owner) was a large, ebullient man called Mr Steve Esther.

Mr Esther had bought a plot of land in 1995 and had built a seven-bedroomed guesthouse, complete with dance/entertainment area, as well as planting and cultivating lots of the plants and trees native to the Seychelles.  His family, including his cute little 10-year old daughter, helped him run the place.

After welcoming us to the Praslin Museum, we were each given a refreshing glass of tropical juice, along with some samples of fresh coconut and breadfruit crisps, and some dried banana slices.  We then began our tour.

The first thing we saw was a wire enclosure containing three large fruit bats. Unlike most bats, however, during daylight, these ones weren’t asleep but were climbing about in their enclosure, their bright black eyes framed by their cute little fox-like faces – in fact, they are known as “flying foxes” and they have a wing-span of about a metre.  The guy told us that the bats were not held captive; they could fly wherever they wanted but they always returned because, to them, it was like a “bat 5-star hotel” where they were well-fed and looked after.  He said on one occasion there had even been baby bats.  😊

Next, we were taken to see some giant tortoises.  There were three altogether; two females and one enormous male, who Mr Esther told us was 136 years old.  The tortoise was friendly and people were given fruit to feed to him, where he would take it out of their hand.  Along the way, Mr Esther would point out the various plants to us, tell us what they were, and what they could be used for, i.e. medicinal, healing, making things etc.  As well as many coconut palms there were vanilla, breadfruit, patchouli and citronella.

The coconut palm is an incredibly useful tree; all parts of the plant can be used.  We were shown how to de-husk and open a green coconut to get the refreshing water; the fibrous husk is used to make matting and baskets.  There were also some older coconuts that were starting to sprout and Mr Esther opened one of them; instead of containing water, the white flesh filled the interior of the coconut and, when we tasted it, it was much drier and more ”woolly” than the coconut flesh we’re accustomed to; in fact, it wasn’t really all that nice.

We were then given some copra, or dried coconut, to try; this tasted different but wasn’t unpleasant.  Coconut shell is also used to make a wide variety of things, from bowls to ornaments to carvings and other household items.

Next, we were taken to where a dreadlocked guy in a crocheted hat showed us how to grate the coconut flesh which is mixed with water and squeezed out by hand to make coconut milk, and to extract the oil, which is used for a great many things, in cooking, cosmetics and hair-care. In fact coconut oil is one of the best conditioners you can use for your hair.  The same guy also used the palm leaves to plait and weave into a basket, complete with handle.  Palm leaves are also made into brooms and are dried and used to thatch buildings as well.  An incredibly versatile tree indeed.

After learning all about the coconuts, we were then taken to the main building and offered a cold drink of water or juice, as well as being able to use the loo.  The guest house looked lovely; set in all this lush greenery off the beaten track it looked like the kind of place where you’d come for a week or so to take time out of life.  😊

We were then shown to a building where fresh breadfruit was being grilled, and each given a hot slice of the delicacy; it didn’t have much taste or texture, it was a bit like mashed potato, and we guessed that perhaps it was used as a staple carbohydrate to “pad out” meals.

After Mr Esther explained to us a bit more about the endemic plants and trees, he showed us how to take a root cutting from a tree, by removing a piece of bark from the branch, then tying a freshly-cut twig, in a bit of soil in a plastic bag, onto the larger branch, where the twig will take nourishment from the mother tree and begin to sprout roots.  It can then be planted where it will grow and bear fruit in about three months.  Fascinating stuff.  😊

We finished this really interesting and educational tour by going to the “disco” area (a large open-sided shelter) with some guitars, local instruments, speakers and a microphone in one corner.  Inside, Mr Esther played the guitar and sang for us, then he played some local music on a hand-fashioned instrument which had a wire stretched lengthwise above a hollow tube; when different areas of the wire were struck with a stick, a different note sounded.  He then took up the guitar again and everyone joined in when he sang Take Me Home, Country Roads.  Then we were each given a paper beaker containing home-brewed palm wine, which tasted quite strong!  😊

What an excellent morning it had been so far!  Our little bus then took us back along the sea front where our guide said we could spend an hour at the beach.  We saw a small supermarket-type shop that was selling cold bottles of Seybrew (the local beer) so we bought a chilled bottle each and the proprietor removed the caps for us.  We then brought the beer onto the most gorgeous beach imaginable, where we sat in the shade, our toes in the sand, and looked out at a scene straight out of Paradise.  We then walked along the shoreline but the sun was very hot, so we went back into the shade, then walked through a small grove of coconut palms; several of the trees and dropped their nuts and we avoided walking directly underneath the trees as we didn’t fancy a coconut falling on our heads!

We then returned to the landing stage where we were pleased to see that all the closed shops we’d spotted yesterday were now open.  We therefore went into one which was displaying colourful clothing and other local souvenirs, where we bought some postcards and stamps, and I also bought a very unusual hand-bag hand-made out of squares of coconut shell joined together and lined with an inner satin pouch which closed with a drawstring.  It wasn’t cheap at £40.00, but it is certainly different and a nice reminder of our visit to Praslin.  In fact, we discovered that the Seychelles aren’t a particularly cheap place anyway; they probably up all the prices for the tourists!

We then joined the queue at the landing stage to get the liberty boat back across to the Boudicca, where we arrived back just after one o’clock – in nice time for lunch.  Dumping our stuff in our stateroom (suite!!) we went down to the Poolside Grill, and enjoyed a freezing cold beer and a light lunch, just sitting in the shade by the pool enjoying ourselves. Hey, this is the life!  😊

We spent the afternoon pottering around the ship until it was time to start getting ready for dinner once again.  At six o’clock Captain Sartela’s voice boomed over the tannoy to announce that the Boudicca would shortly be weighing anchor and setting sail for Victoria, the capital of the Seychelles.  As the sun dipped lower in the sky (sunset was at 6.32pm), we made our way to the Tintagel Restaurant and enjoyed the usual scrumptious meal, washed down with copious quantities of rosé wine.  As everyone on table #31 had got to know each other by now, we enjoyed the conversation and the banter, and Trevor and I decided this was turning out to be a fantastic cruise.

After dinner we did the usual – went along to the Neptune Lounge to take part in the dancing (the best we could, anyway!), then order our drinks and sit back to enjoy the show.  Tonight the fabulous Boudicca Orchestra were in the spotlight (instead of ‘just’ being the superb backing for the main show).  They were performing their tribute to all the Big Band greats, such as Glen Miller and Duke Ellington.  Their show was excellent, and judging by the foot tapping we could see going on in the audience, everyone else seemed to enjoy it too.

Afterwards we adjourned to the Lido Lounge, where the resident pianist Colin James was just finishing off before the quiz.  Joe joined us tonight, but we were nowhere near winning again.

After the quiz we hot-footed it back to the Neptune Lounge; most of the best seats were already taken because tonight was featuring the Crew Cabaret.  This was a selection of talented singers from around members of the crew, from the engine room to waiters to cabin stewardesses; all of them received enthusiastic cheers and applause from the audience, and we wondered why some of them didn’t become professional singers rather than their usual day jobs.

We returned to the Lido Lounge afterwards, but we were quite tired after our packed day, so we just got a drink to enjoy on our balcony, and we took it back, put our feet up and enjoyed the sounds of the sea along with Enya’s relaxing music emanating softly from my iPod.

We had another delightful day in the Seychelles to look forward to tomorrow and, with this happy thought, fell asleep more or less instantly.

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